SAN ANTONIO – In the first five years of Charles Bruce’s coaching tenure at Wagner, the Thunderbirds were buried in the district of doom in 6A with Judson, Steele, Smithson Valley and Clemens, among others. They won only 13 games over that span. On Saturday, the Thunderbirds let the state know how good those teams really were.
L.J. Butler ran for 169 yards, Karlton Black added 160, and they combined for five rushing touchdowns, as the Thunderbirds beat Mission Veterans Memorial 54-21 to move to the UIL 5A Division I state semifinals for the first time ever.
After combining for over 700 yards of total offense last week, Patriot QB Landry Gilpin was held to 283 total yards. In fact, Wagner outrushed Vets Memorial 487 to -56, as Vets was trying to become the first RGV team to make the semis since 1990.
The first half was sloppy, as the teams had three turnovers each, but Black’s 53-yard touchdown rush broke open the game at 21-7. Butler scored from four yards out early in the second half, and Mission Vets never caught up. Black had TD runs of 32 and nine yards to put the game away.
With the win, the Thunderbirds (13-1) advance to the semis, a place their basketball teams are used to, where they will face 14-0 Alvin Shadow Creek next Saturday. The game is tentatively set for 6PM at the Houston Texans' stadium.
It was over when: Charles Bruce asked his team at halftime to stop turning the ball over. It obliged, and scored five rushing touchdowns and committed no turnovers after recess.
Game ball goes to: Butler, Black and the defense. Butler and Black had big days, but the defense forced four turnovers and made Landry Gilpin human.
Stat of the game: 13. From 2013-2017, Wagner won 13 games in 6A. Saturday’s win was its 13th victory of the season in 5A.